From the family of Falconiformes,  Accipitridae
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Some clarification on the use of certain terms.

 Raptors or raptorial birds, quote - "warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates characterized by feathers and forelimbs modified as wings." Then Accipiter are hawks that visit deeply wooded areas. The birds generally has short rounded wings and long rudder like tails, to assist them in maneuver between foliages.

For the Malaysian Bird list, I have grouped all these Accipiters as one under this family heading. The birds included  are:-

1 Osprey 1 Besra
1 Hawk 1 Honey Buzzard
1 Griffons 2 Vultures
2 Goshawks 2 Sparrowhawks
6 Eagles 2 Serpent-Eagles
3Sea/Fish eagles 4 Hawk-Eagles
2 Baza 3 Buzzards
4 Harriers 3 Kites

I have extracted the names from this large group of Accipiters  the 2 Serpent Eagles that we get to see in Malaysia and have a dedicated page for at least one of the two, the very common "yellow face" - a nickname I gave this bird.

Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
Kinabalu Serpent Eagle Spilornis kinabaluensis


Serpent Eagles so-named as they are snakes eating Eagles.

 The bird has a large looking head with long feathers on the back of the head giving a crested appearance. The face is bare with yellow skin. The lower legs are unfeathered and installed with armor-like scales that help protect them against snakebites. They fly over the forest canopy on broad wings and tail have wide white and black bars. They call often with a loud, piercing and familiar three or two-note call. The underside is spotted with white and yellowish-brown. When perched the wing tips do not reach until the tail tip. In soaring flight, the broad and paddle-shaped wings are held in a shallow "V".



Crested Serpent Eagle - Spilornis cheela malayensis


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 56-74 cm. This is the most common resident eagle we see throughout the country . it is a fairly large Raptor. The upper and under part is uniformly dark brown  with faint spots. Also a stocky bird. Wings rounded, the tail, short in black with a broad white band.

 Distribution :-  The bird is from continental India, South China, Greater Sundas and the Philippines. It is very common in all forests in Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:-  Lowland, mangrove, sub-montane and at times montane forest too. This bird needs no introduction.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- All lowland forest edge of deep forest forest. Some places I have seen them Perdik, Lentang and Rengit. Most pictures of the female taken in Lentang, that of the male in Perdik and Rengit.
Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-    

juvenile Eagle  # 1

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 2

juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle # 3

juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle  # 4

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 5

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 6

Crested Serpent Eagle # 7

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 8

Crested Serpent Eagle # 9

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 10

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 11

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 12

Crested Serpent Eagle # 16

Crested Serpent Eagle  # 17

Crested Serpent Eagle # 18


My personal jottings on the Crested Serpent-Eagle:-

Young birds show a lot of white on the head. In flight this Eagle is for me is most easy to distinguish. It has a broad white band on the tail. The wings also have continuous white band as well. In resting position, when the bird is not too far away, the yellow facial skins around the eyes make the bird easy to identify.  Very often, its unmistakable calls over the hills and valley will signal their presence. Could be in flight or perched near-by

"Crested" - but as you can see from the pictures, the crest does not appear that readily. Seen as a tuft behind the head. Some books talk about the crest can be manipulated to cover the eye in event of an attack by its victim, the snakes.

The bird prefers open end or bare branches in the middle storey but could also pick vantage perches in low places.


I think that pictures have taken away the descriptions my writing suppose to elaborate. First this the breeding rate of this bird prolific. That's the reason that the bird could be seen almost every jungle path and forest edge that we went. Then again, the bird is a very confident creature, undisturbed by traffic and human presence. Choosing an outstanding spot to stalk. For the birders, the sight of the bird is always a welcome sign that they have seen a good bird for the day.

I like this bird, very re-assuring when meeting up with it in birding trip.